Two Different Cases; CPS Ignores Dad in Each

Updating the Maryanne Godboldo case is this article (Detroit News, 4/7/11).  As I said in my first piece on this case, there’s a fair amount we don’t know at this early date.

What we do know is that Godboldo’s daughter has some form of mental/emotional problems for which she was prescribed Risperdal, a psychotropic drug.  When Godboldo refused to give the 13-year-old girl the medication, CPS showed up at her house having first obtained a court order to take her daughter into custody.  CPS obtained the order ex parte meaning that Godboldo was not there to contest it or tell her side of the story.  So far we still don’t know why the girl’s mother wasn’t given an opportunity to defend her parenting decisions to the judge.

When Godboldo refused to turn over the child, the police broke into her house and forcibly removed the girl after what has been called a “10 hour standoff.”  Godboldo allegedly discharged a pistol when the officers broke into her home.  She’s currently charged with five felonies stemming from the the standoff and her refusal to turn over her daughter.

The article linked to gives a couple of additional details.

The first is that, although Godboldo’s daughter has been in a psychiatric facility for 13 days since being taken by CPS, she’s still not been given any Risperdal.  Godboldo’s refusal to give the medication was, of course, the whole reason for the girl’s being taken into care.

So on one hand, the mother’s refusal to give her daughter Risperdal supposedly created such an emergency that CPS couldn’t even tell Godboldo about the court hearing to take the girl.  On the other, it’s so unimportant that the child has been in a psychiatric facility for almost two weeks and still hasn’t received the medication.

If there’s a reasonable explanation for that, I sure can’t figure out what it is.

Into the bargain, the lawyer for the girl’s father says that the psychiatric facility reports that she’s “stable” without the medication.  So maybe Godboldo was right all along.

Oh, and speaking of the father, CPS didn’t.  Usually, when a child welfare agency decides to take single mother’s child into care, caseworkers don’t even attempt to locate the father.  And lest you think I’m using the word “usually” in a loose or inaccurate way, I’m not.  The Urban Institute did a study showing that, even when case files contain the identity of the father, they make no effort to contact him over half the time when seeking alternative placement for a child.

And that is true despite the fact that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services publishes a 114-page booklet on the importance of fathers.  It’s a guide to CPS caseworkers emphasizing the need to locate dads when children are taken from mothers.

Clearly CPS did no such thing in this case.

A lawyer for the girl’s father, Mubuarak Hakim, also accused protective services of failing one of its mandates to keep families together by not trying to find the father or another relative with whom to place the girl.

From what I can gather, Hakim is not some obscure figure.  He’s been part of the protests that have developed around his daughter’s being taken into care.  So the question arises, “why didn’t CPS contact him?”  He’s right about part of their mandate being to keep families together if possible.

Doubtless we’ll start to get answers as time goes on.

As counterpoint to a story about what looks to be the heavy-handedness of on CPS agency, is this one in which the opposite occurred (KiiiTV, 4/6/11).

Way down south in Corpus Christi, Texas, 21 month old Texas Ruiz met his end at the hands of his mother and stepfather on New Years Day.  The toddler died of blunt force trauma to the head and stomach.  Lorraine Rodriguez-Garza and Juan Jose Garza have been charged with murder in his death.

But in an exclusive interview, the child’s biological father says he had previously warned child protective services that the boy was in danger. Raul and Lisa Ruiz say they did everything they could in calling on those whose job it is to protect children. But nothing was done, and today’s capital murder charges they say proves that.

Ruiz has employed an attorney, and I assume that means he’ll be suing CPS for failing to protect his child when it had notice of the danger he faced.  I won’t be surprised to see Ruiz get a hefty chunk of change due to the negligence and apparent gross negligence of CPS.  And, however that comes about, Texas taxpayers will bear at least part of the cost.

Two cases with two opposite results.  In the first, CPS overreacted; in the second it apparently did nothing.  In one it took a child that may well have done fine with her mother or father.  In the other, CPS left a little boy in a situation that was clearly hazardous to his health.

But of course there’s one similarity between the two.  In both, CPS ignored the father.  And, had the agencies not done so, the bad results in each case may well have been averted.  Had Texas authorities heeded Ruiz’s warnings, his little boy could certainly have been saved either by placing him in foster care or by transferring custody to Ruiz and his wife.

In Detroit, transfer to the father could easily have avoided the “standoff” and either gotten the girl her medication or allowed everyone to decide to wait, as has been done.

There’s a lesson in both cases.

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